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LSU Versus Alabama Film Study -- The Tigers Continue Their First Drive

LSU wide receiver Rueben Randle (2) runs past Alabama defensive back DeQuan Menzie (24) during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 5, 2011, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
LSU WR Randle battled CB Menzie all game on Nov. 5.
Photo via Naples News
This piece is a part of the "LSU Versus Alabama Film Study." To read the opening piece on the ultimate reason why Alabama lost to LSU, click here. Here is Part I & Part II of Alabama's first offensive drive. Here is the first part of the LSU offense. 

                                                                        Play #9
Jarrett Lee to Odell Beckham Jr. for 13 yards. 

Fantastic play call by LSU offensive coordinator Greg Studwara after a great run on first down. Alabama crowded the line of scrimmage, Rueben Randle goes into motion and stops right next to right tackle Alex Hurst

Hurst, like he did on the first play, gets beat at the line of scrimmage by Courtney Upshaw off the snap. While pass protection everywhere else was good on the play for LSU, Upshaw gets to Lee quickly. 

Beckham has been fantastic all year on intermediate routes, especially when Lee has been in at quarterback. He is sharp getting in and out of breaks and does a great job not giving away his route to the defensive back. In this case, the defensive back was Coaches All-American cornerback DeQuan Menzie.

Lee does a great of getting rid of the football before Upshaw is able to get to him.  

Play #10
Lee to Randle for 6 yards.

Alabama starts play off showing a "Double-A Gap" blitz, which is a personal favorite pre-snap defensive look for me. With the athletic linebackers Alabama has, they are able to give this look. It's when both linebackers lineup on both sides of the center at the the line of scrimmage standing up. 

Because Alabama runs a 3-4, nose tackle Josh Chapman is a "0-technique", which means he is lined up directly over the center. This makes life difficult for opposing centers for knowing who to block and what blocking calls to make. 

As the play develops, Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart check out of the Double-A Gap look into zone coverage. The Alabama players adjust and sink back. 

But despite if it was man or zone coverage, Lee completes a smooth pass to Randle on a comeback route for six yards on Menzie. Close follower of LSU football and dear friend of mine Matthew Monte said to me earlier this year that because his athleticism, "Randle is always open." Even though Menzie is one of the few corners in college football who can stay step for step with Randle, it's tough to take the ball away from the one of the SEC's best receivers.  

Play #11
Spencer Ware for three yards

I said it in our first LSU offensive study that the stats (29 yards on 16 carries) completely diminish how great of a game running back Spencer Ware had against Alabama. This run was pretty much all Ware. 

First off, LSU is the only program I've seen this type of running play. It's a running back dive, except the quarterback pitches the ball instead of handing it off directly from to the running back.  It's a play guard Will Blackwell told me is called "Power." There is actually a reason why LSU likes to pitch the ball instead of handing it off directly on this play. LSU has been successful with this play all year long, even catching the attention of Ty Hildenbrandt of Grantland's Solid Verbal

"It looks so strange but it works every time," said Hildenbrandt in bewilderment to me after LSU defeated Arkansas. LSU averaged 4 yards per carry on the "Power" play agains the Razorbacks. 

In this game, the play wasn't that affective. And we will see here why the Tide crushed it almost every time. 

As you seen on the bottom of the screen, LSU lines up in an (somewhat unusual) "unbalanced" look up front. What this (usually) means is there are more offensive players on the line of scrimmage lined up in a blocking position on one side of the center than the other. In this case, LSU has four players lined up on one side of the center and the other side has two. Teams usually go "unbalanced" to create numbers advantages and mismatches in the running game. 

Usually the word "unbalanced" refers to an offensive lineman moving to the other side of the ball to create three offensive lineman on one side compared to one on the other. Versatile Alabama left tackle Barrett Jones lined up on the right side numerous times in the first half. That's why for LSU on this play I call this a "somewhat unusual unbalanced"set. 

LSU's offensive lineman are actually in their normal positions. Usually when one tight end lines up on either side, it's not considered "unbalanced." Chase Clement is the tight end on this play and he is lined up left of Chris Faulk. But what makes this truly unique is LSU has physical freshman receiver Jarvis Landry (JL) lined up to the left to the tight end. Landry makes the line of scrimmage "unbalanced."

As you can see in the picture, Landry is looking down at the man he is assigned to block, which is Upshaw (CU). A blind caveman knows Upshaw is a extreme mismatch for Landry, as we will see in the next slide. 

Off the snap, we see Landry (JL) attempting a cut block on Upshaw (CU). We will get back to them in a few. Let's begin a blocking breakdown going from left to right at the line of scrimmage. 

Faulk and Clement get a solid double team on Damion Square as they work on to get to the linebacker level. In the middle of the screen, Blackwell (#60) is giving up early penetration to nose tackle Josh Chapman. Center T-Bob Hebert is awaiting blitzing linebacker Nico Johnson. Because of the penetration of Chapman, he creates a ton of backfield traffic for right guard Josh Williford to "pull", which means an offensive lineman off the snap runs elsewhere to block somebody else on defense instead of the person in front or close to him pre-snap. So right now, Alabama is winning the battle up front. 

As we see in this slide, LSU up front begins to win some of the battles at the line of scrimmage. Blackwell is able to seal off Chapman, Hebert parries the blitizing linebacker out of the play and Faulk has his man on the ground. But once again, Upshaw (CU) shows why he is special and how downright idiotic it is to block him with a receiver in Landry. 

To be fair to Landry, he was doomed from the start. Not only is this a mismatch, it's a tough block to execute. Landry had to cut Upshaw to ground, even though Upshaw was to his inside pre-snap near enough to the hole to make the play. 

Upshaw fights off Landry to the inside and is in a good position to create havoc. Before the play began, JC Copeland's (JC) job is to take on the linebacker who is sitting in the play-side hole. But because (CU) had deep penetration, (JC) did a nice job of adjusting and cut down Upshaw. 

But because, the play was well blown up by Alabama, Ware has to make a quick decision. Does he try and pound it forward, or does he bounce the run to the outside. Ware decides to bounce it because of the high volume of players in a small amount of space. 

(Side Note: I said before right before the slides of this play began, I will give the added bonus and reason why a pitch is more effective than a hand off. You see quarterback Jarrett Lee (#12) in the last slide sit and look for anybody coming from the backside. If linebacker Jerrell Harris (#5) was coming hard off the edge from the backside, Lee would have blocked him.)  

We see (JC) completing his cut block of (CU). Because Ware is bouncing the run outside, the man responsible for contain has to make the tackle. On this play, it is cornerback DeQuan Menzie (DM). 

Menzie (DM) takes an awful angle on the tackle and displays terrible form. You're taught as a tackler to put your head across a players body on their backfield shoulder if they are running at you at an angle. As we see, Menzie's terrible angle forces his head to be stiff-armed by Ware. With Ware's power, if a tacklers head is in bad position, they are going to miss the tackle. 

Menzie also loses contain in the process. If Menzie at least keeps Ware to the inside, you see three Alabama tacklers ready to tackle for no more than a two yard gain. 

Ware breaks Menzie's tackle and is forced out an inch away from the first down marker. 

Play #12
Jefferson sneaks for first down

The first we see of Jordan Jefferson. He comes in and gets the job done. But that wouldn't be the last we would see from No. 9. 

In the next study, we will finish off the rest of the drives for LSU and I will show what LSU needs to do on January 9th to achieve success offensively. 


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